Our enjoyment at being home was tempered recently by the sad news that a First Air plane en route from Yellowknife crashed just outside Resolute Bay. Miraculously, there were three survivors, but the crew and eight other passengers were killed instantly. In a second, and eerily ironic miracle, Canadian Forces were on hand for Operation Nanook, one element of which was to be a practice drill responding to a plane crash. The drill was cancelled as the medical and other personel lept into real action, working with volunteer first responders from the community minutes after the plane went down.
Investigators have recovered the aircraft’s black boxes and have warned that it will be weeks or months before the cause of the crash will be known. Anyone who has flown in the north knows that the pilots there have remarkable skills, operate with great care, and frequently work in conditions that their more southern colleagues rarely experience. Accidents will happen though, and when they do it is a reminder of the vastness of the north and the remoteness of these communities. The serendipitous military presence underscores how far northern settlements are from the kind of sophisticated emergency services we take for granted in the south.
All of the victims of the crash will be mourned by family, friends, and colleagues, but northern researchers particularly feel the loss of Marty Bergmann, the head of the Polar Continental Shelf Program. A fund to advance scientific research in the north has been established in his name at the Winnipeg Foundation. Should other funds be established in honor of other crash victims we will post information about them.